Election 2020: 32nd Representative District

Andria Bennett

Name: Andria Bennett

Age: 49

Family: Husband, Brad Bennett

Residence: Dover

Occupation: Full-time legislator

Name: Cheryl Precourt

Party: Republican

Age: 64

Family: My husband, Bill, and I have four children and four grandchildren

Residence: Dover

Occupation: Medical billing for a mental health practice

Why are you running for this seat?

AB: I am running for another term because I want to continue to work hard every day to take care of the issues that affect the 32nd District and the state of Delaware. I have a proven track record of service to the communities in the district as an advocate on their behalf. I will continue to commit all my energy to serving my constituents.

Cheryl Precourt

CP: I believe that we are all people regardless of what political party we belong to, and I do not believe that is reflected in our government. Over my lifetime, I have been a Democrat, Independent and, for most of my life, I have been a Republican. I am a Republican now because the party platform represents my individual liberties and values. My husband and I believe that we, as parents, can best represent our family.

The Democratic Party platform believes that government can decide what is best for our families. They create program after program, increasing the taxes of working families, instead of considering that each family is more capable of making choices that work best for them. I believe we need to give a hand up to families that are falling through the cracks with help from our local churches and partnerships, but that, ultimately, we should have limited government.

What do you see as the major issues for this district?

AB: COVID-19, the economy, public safety/crime, education and health care are the most important issues facing this district and the entire state of Delaware.

CP: As I have doorknocked the district, the people I have spoken with have expressed concerns about safety in their neighborhoods and do not want to defund our police departments. Taxes (personal, business and property) are another concern, especially for people who own property and particularly if they are on a fixed income.

Education reform is at the top of the list, and some parents I spoke with would like to see a voucher system, where the dollars would follow the student to a school (public, charter, private) the parent chooses for their child. During the pandemic, parents have had to home-school or take time off work to help with remote learning. Some parents work an overnight shift and then have to come home and help their children get through the school day. They want a choice in the future that adapts to their family.

What is the biggest problem facing the state, and how would you solve it?

AB: The impact of COVID-19 continues to be the greatest problem facing our state. From education to the economy, the pandemic has ravaged our state. For the most part, Delawareans have taken the virus seriously and that has helped our citizens and communities. We need to remain focused on rebuilding our economy and assisting our small businesses that have been affected the most by this unprecedented crisis. We need to continue to support our families that have lost their jobs.

The state recently launched a grant program to provide assistance to help keep our small businesses open. We need additional programs to help support our businesses and families that have been affected the most.

CP: One-party rule is a critical issue. The General Assembly can push through partisan legislation without having to consider people on the other side of the aisle. We need a balance of power, so that all people can be best represented and not just special-interest groups. We need honest, fact-based debate, and many times laws are passed without this. I have been at Legislative Hall when certain peer-based information is introduced in a biased way without giving all the information.

Votes run along party lines, and a large portion of the population is not represented. If a public official wins by 60% and they always vote along party lines, they have forgotten about the other 40% of registered voters. My solution would be for people to get all the facts first before voting and not vote for a party but vote for the person who best represents your values.

What would you like to see Delaware do differently regarding coronavirus?

AB: As we continue to deal with the effects of COVID-19, I would like to see decisions made with more input from the legislative branch and the public. In the coming months, as our state continues to try to confront and recover from COVID-19, it should be done safely and should be transparent because we are all in this together.

CP: In all times, pandemic or not, we should protect the most vulnerable, and we should use basic precautions, such as hand washing and sanitizing. It is also the responsibility of the families to stay home if they are sick or have underlying health conditions that would put them or others at risk. I would like to see children back in school and parents be able to return to work. We have child care facilities that have stayed open, so I do not understand why schools did not open in September. Parents who wanted to send their children to school should have been able to do so, and parents that didn’t feel it was safe could have been offered equitable remote learning.

All businesses are essential and should be allowed to open, and common-sense solutions could have been used. Some businesses, such as a music shop, may never reach capacity, even in good times. To make them adhere to occupancy limits is not right or fair. Many churches have online and limited in-person services, but it has been seven months now, and all people want to be able to attend church. The procedures the state has implemented for church and business is cumbersome to say the least.

How should our health care system change in response to coronavirus?

AB: Coronavirus has shown us flaws in our health care system. Access to quality health care is not available to all. We need to continue to expand access to testing in all communities. We also need to continue to protect the communities that are most vulnerable, such as the growing senior population in our state. Our health care community has done an amazing job responding to the pandemic. They have been tireless in their fight against this virus and helping keep our families healthy, while being away from their own loved ones. First responders have been the heroes throughout this ongoing crisis.

CP: This is not an easy question and I imagine it will be discussed for years to come. We need to look at long term care and nursing homes. COVID has taken the lives of many in these facilities. What hasn’t been counted is how many patients went into a downward spiral and died early because their families were not able to see them. Plans need to be developed for procedures to be put in place to enable visitors and families to safely visit during a healthcare crisis, or we need to consider round-the-clock care for those whose families would like to move them home during a health care crisis. Hospitals need to have plans that would allow for COVID patients to be treated while still being able to perform routine surgeries and other procedures safely.

What do you believe schools should do to educate students while keeping people safe from COVID-19?

AB: Our children deserve access to a quality education. We need to figure out a way to open our schools as safely as possible so that our children and educators are not putting their health at risk. It has been very difficult knowing that our children are not doing well attending school virtually. Our educators are the frontline experts on the education of our children. I believe they should have a greater say in how we go about returning to in person classes safely. We should continue to have in-school and virtual options going forward for the parents who feel they don’t want their children in the classroom.

CP: I believe that students learn best in the classroom. We have had since March to figure out what keeps people safe. Teachers, students and caregivers who have underlying health conditions need to be protected and may need to continue virtual teaching/learning. However, all other students and teachers, using social distancing, masks, hand washing, and sanitizing should be able to return to the classroom. Schools may want to have certain teachers assigned to classrooms and other teachers to virtual learning. We need to move forward and adapt to prevent students from falling behind.

What should the state do to help both businesses and workers right now?

AB: The pandemic has negatively impacted the economy and jobs in our state. We need to continue to support Delawareans who have lost their jobs and income during this crisis. As I stated above, we need to remain focused on rebuilding our economy and assisting our small businesses who have been affected the most by this unprecedented crisis. We need to continue to support our families who have lost their jobs.

The state recently launched a grant program to provide assistance to help keep our small businesses open. We need additional programs to help support our businesses and families that have been affected the most. We need to come up with innovative ways to assist small businesses legislatively, such as allowing outdoor dining and delivery options so that these businesses can stay open.

CP: The state needs to reduce taxes on businesses and we need to reduce industry-specific regulations and mandates that stifle small businesses in particular. We could also lower the personal income tax rates in Delaware. Delaware taxes people that make $60,000 or more at a higher rate and have been considering increasing taxes on people that make $125,000 or more. In light of COVID, we need to keep our taxes low.

What do you think of the current level of state spending?

AB: COVID has had a significant impact on spending in the state this year. Prior to COVID, the General Assembly created a $125 million reserve fund to assist during possible budget shortfalls due to downturn of the economy. This has assisted us in balancing the budget without raising taxes. The legislature will need to continue to be good stewards of the state’s finances. Revenues have slowed so the legislature will need to prioritize necessary spending.

CP: Operating budget spending in Delaware has gone from $2.4 billion in 2005 to $4.5 billion in 2020. In fifteen short years, our budget has almost doubled. To cover our current budget, every man, woman and child in Delaware would need to pay an extra $4,687 in taxes and that would only cover the current operating budget and does not include capital expenditures. We are passing tremendous debt on to our children and grandchildren and that is not acceptable.

Would you support gun control measures?

AB: I would support common sense gun control measures, but not those that impede on the rights of the law-abiding, responsible citizens. The focus has to be on keeping guns out of the hands of criminals preventing violent crimes. Taking the guns away from them and enforcing harsher punishments for those who are not supposed to own or be in possession of them would be a logical start.

CP: No, I would not support gun control measures. Delaware has a negative history of bringing forth gun control laws that have nothing to do with safety here in the First State. Restricting law-abiding citizens is not an option. If we want illegal guns off the street, we need to stop pleading down gun charges. We need to work to get illegal guns off the street.

What changes are needed to policing and the criminal justice system?

AB: My belief is we are locally on a good path to success with implementing some changes. In Dover, the (police) chief has formed a committee, various ages, background, education level and without political bias to have open, frank discussions on how they view the relationships — their strengths and weaknesses and how gaps in communication can be closed. Transparency and accountability go hand in hand, and can save face from both sides. Use of body cameras, instead of just edited videos showing up on social media would diffuse many issues and disrupt one-sided story lines.

Many police departments have also taken a closer look at their policies and training requirements to include excessive use of force, discriminatory practices and internal policies. These are all positive steps forward in the way every call is handled, with fair judgment and without prejudice.

I am hopeful that we can arrange, or aid in funding body cameras for police departments so it is not a financial burden to get their programming started.

CP: The police have policies and procedures that are designed to keep the officers and people safe and unfortunately, as we have seen in recent years, real-life situations have ended in tragedy and death for both officers and civilians. Per our Constitution, justice is blind. So whether the governor’s son commits a crime or a person in my neighborhood commits the same crime, punishment is to be meted out equally.

We need to study where the disconnect is, using real cases in Delaware. We also need to remember there is a victim to any crime no matter how large or small and we cannot just focus on the person who committed the crime but we also need to consider the victim.

What do you make of the state of race relations in the U.S. and particularly Delaware?

AB: Although, in many ways, we have made great strides in closing the divide, racism still exists. As a community, as a state and as a nation, we have to do better. There is so much more to each of us than our outward appearances. We see over and over again, young children who overlook the color of someone’s skin, where they live, or who they know. We all should live like that. I would like to see even more of a focus made on evaluating those who are imprisoned on simple drug charges and could/should be released under Delaware’s law.

CP: The first commandment is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. “Love you neighbor as yourself” is the second.” What I hear in the nation and this state is a heart issue. As individuals, we need to consider each other more important than ourselves. We need to make how we treat each other, even when we do wrong, more important than our identities.

Do you have any additional thoughts you wish to share?

AB: Did not answer.

CP: I pray that God will heal our land from this COVID virus and that families and marriages would be strengthened so that our children can have a better future.